RESISTANCE COUNTS (VOF Month 1)
The members of the APDP Kashmir sit every month in a Srinagar park with placards displaying the pictures of their missing kin. Some are missing for 20 years now. The two-decade struggle of APDP has not been able to retrieve information about the disappeared from the government. No legal course is available as the state judiciary finds itself too weak to prosecute non-cooperating police and troops. Special acts grant immunity to Indian armed forces operating in the region. Politicians are reluctant to help.
But resistance is more important. They have not been able to locate their kin, but their struggle has forced government to put curbs on the inhuman practice of enforced disappearances.
The practice was common in the nineties when insurgency in Kashmir was at its peak. Different security agencies operating in the region would pick up a youth, sometimes during nights, sometimes in broad daylight, and later deny any information about him.
Enforced disappearances have taken place in recent years too but the number of such incidents has drastically reduced from its peak in nineties.
The APDP struggle that led the provincial government of Indian administered Kashmir to acknowledge that around 3000 people are missing, though government officials have given out varying figures from time to time. The government also does not admit that most of the disappeared have been picked up by Indian security agencies that enjoy enormous powers and immunity in the region. Instead they say that the missing have crossed border to go to Pakistan administered Kashmir, or may have died crossing borders.
In 2007 search for a carpenter missing for a few months led investigators to graves of a few people killed in staged gun battles by police and passed off as foreign militants. Four such graves were exhumed and a senior police officer was prosecuted for the crime.
Many believe that the disappeared people have been killed by security agencies in interrogations after arrest. Such arrests are not registered anywhere.
APDP fights to get whereabouts of Kashmir’s disappeared, estimated to be around six to ten thousand. The simple demands of APDP stare Indian government in the face, and dent its claims of being the largest democracy in the world.
APDP’s struggle has been recognized by international human rights groups, like the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The watchdogs have repeatedly asked India to provide information about the whereabouts of disappeared, and withdraw immunity to its troops.
The Indian state remains unmoved, so does Parveena’s resolution.
“I will fight for the whereabouts of my childen as long as I am alive,” says Parveena.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.